Does VPN Affect Bandwidth?
Whenever I play online games, I connect to a VPN server that is closely situated to where I live because I don’t want it to affect my latency (the delay between sending and receiving requests and responses).
I only consider my bandwidth when the VPN server I am connected to has many users on it, which in turn forces the VPN service to restrict and allocate a certain amount of bandwidth to me no matter my connection speed.
Most people get these terms and understandings confused, so here is an article that will clear it all up.
A VPN may affect your bandwidth due to its server bandwidth capacity and server load (bandwidth capacity due to the number of connected users). Server load will directly affect your bandwidth capacity (the more users, the less your bandwidth will be). Another factor could be that a VPN server could have a max bandwidth cap, which would also affect your bandwidth.
In this article, we will have to discuss the differences between bandwidth and latency in detail because many people may know one term and not the other. By comparing these two, we will understand each other better, and in turn, we will be able to understand how a VPN service affects both (if at all).
We will then look at under what conditions your latency and bandwidth are affected by a VPN server. Finally, you will understand precisely how a VPN server operates and how it affects your internet connection in terms of “speed.”
Comparing bandwidth to latency
The difference between internet bandwidth and internet speed is pretty straightforward. Bandwidth (throughput) refers to how much data can be uploaded and downloaded to and from your computer over a certain amount of time.
For example, let’s say you are on a road with one lane on it and all the traffic going down that lane is your Mbps per second. If you downloaded a file that was 10Mbps, it would take you 10 seconds on a 1Mbp line to get that file because you have one lane that all the data has to travel down.
Now, if you had a 10Mbps connection (10 lanes on the road), you would be able to download that file in 1 second.
It is important to remember that the speed of the data is traveling down the road at the same speed; however, the data reaches its destination quicker because more information is able to travel down the road at the same time.
Latency is the other aspect of your connection speed, and it is the amount of time it takes to send and receive a response from a server you are trying to access (like a website, or game, or Netflix).
Ironically most people get bandwidth confused with latency and interchange the two. Try to remember that bandwidth (throughput) is measured in Mbps per second while latency (speed) is measured in milliseconds.
What does a VPN affect?
Well, a VPN will always add latency (slow down the response time of requesting and receiving responses from a server) because you have to remember that it must route your data to the VPN server before it can send it off to the destination web server.
For the most part, you won’t even notice latency because it is measured in milliseconds. Data packets that you send and receive will approximately have the same latency, so if you’re streaming a movie or downloading something, the data packets will approximately reach you at the same time.
However, one thing to note is that latency will definitely affect your gaming experience over the internet. Remember latency is the total amount of time that your requests and responses to a server take, and if it takes too long, your gameplay will suffer.
For example, if I’m playing an FPS (First Person Shooter) and try to shoot an opponent, perhaps my computer is receiving the information too late, and my opponent is no longer in the same place.
Or perhaps I try and shoot, and the information I’m sending to the server takes too long to get there. Hence, I will shoot, but nothing will happen.
What about bandwidth and a VPN?
Now that we can distinguish between bandwidth and latency, let’s see how a VPN affects your bandwidth.
When connected to a VPN, you are assigned (allocated) a certain amount of bandwidth no matter how much bandwidth you actually have. For example, a VPN could allocate you 20Mbps while your connection speed is 30Mbps.
How much bandwidth is allocated to you depends on the server setup and how much data you are transferring. You have to be careful because some VPN services cap bandwidth at a specific amount.
Other VPN services will split the available bandwidth as efficiently as possible between all users connected to that server.
A VPN’s server load is the total amount of bandwidth that is being used by a server at any given point in time. Ergo, the number of users sharing a server directly impacts and correlates to the server’s load.
Suppose we have to break this down into an example. Let’s say that the VPN server’s bandwidth is 200Mbps, and there are 10 users connected and using the server at a point in time. If the server has been set up to split and allocate bandwidth evenly for all users, each user will be assigned 20Mpbs.
Hence if you have a 50Mbs connection, you will still only run at 20Mbps because that is what the VPN server is allocating you.
However, in some cases, and A VPN service will use smart bandwidth allocation. This means that not all users will be allocated the same amount of bandwidth.
Some users may not be using all the bandwidth they are issued all the time, and as such, that bandwidth will be allocated to users that require more and need the most.
One thing to note is that these are not real-world examples, and VPN servers are capable of handling thousands of users and have gigabyte pipes, so more likely than not, your bandwidth will not be affected too much or, in some cases, at all.
Server location regarding bandwidth and latency
Another thing to note is that your VPN’s server location will affect both bandwidth and latency. Regarding latency, if the server is far away, then the requesting and receiving response time of a server will be much longer. This will affect your online gaming dramatically.
Hence if you are an avid online gamer, be sure to always select the closest VPN server to your home location so you can have the shortest possible latency.
Regarding bandwidth, a VPNs’ popularity and the number of servers spread over different locations will impact how many users are logging onto a specific server.
In turn, your bandwidth may suffer due to there being many users because of popularity or because there are too few servers in a favorable location.
Understanding the difference between bandwidth and latency is essential when understanding how a VPN affects your internet connection.
A VPN server affects these two aspects of your internet connection very differently. If you do not understand what they are and how they are different, you will definitely be confused and overwhelmed.
It would help if you remembered that bandwidth is your “throughput” of data and is measured in Mbps (megabytes per second).
Think about a motorway having one lane sending information or a motorway having ten lanes sending information. The information (data) will obviously get there much quicker.
Latency is measured in milliseconds and is the overall response time between sending and receiving requests to and from a server.
VPN services will always affect latency; however, this is not noticeable, and you shouldn’t worry about it unless you are playing online games.
A VPN server has a maximum bandwidth capacity and allocates and shares its bandwidth among all the users connected to it. Due to this, it may or may not affect your bandwidth.
Taking everything into consideration, we can say that the more bandwidth capacity that is available on a VPN server in a given location and the fewer users who are connected to that server, the faster your “speed” will be.